“Some stories must be read backwards to be truly understood,” she told him nonsensically, as he sat watching the ripples.
“It’s manga,” he replied. “It’s not backwards; it’s just echoing its origins.”
“You’re so pretentious,” she spat back.
He sighed, wishing it were warm enough to swim. She was afraid of the lake.
He had been so excited about quitting his boring nine-to-five. He had thought that escaping away, leaving behind his things and experiencing simplicity would be an awakening. She had been excited too. Or so he had thought.
Now he realized things were all that they had had in common.
It had taken them the better part of their youth to build a home together. Now neither of them was at home with the other. Perhaps all they had built was a house.
She stood up from her canvas chair and stretched in the familiar way, with her arms high above her head so that her body curved totally from toes to fingers. He used to poke her ribs when she did this, and she would pretend to hate it. Then one day she decided she really did hate it.
“I’m going up to the cabin,” she said sweetly, making up for the jab. “Nap time.”
He kissed her. Their ten thousandth kiss, though neither knew that.
He wearily picked up his fishing pole and cast off. The romanticism of catching his own dinner each night was beginning to wear off.
Twenty minutes later, he felt the pull and placed his feet firmly on the dock for strength. It was a big one.
Finally, standing now, the fish broke to the surface. It was big, and he felt a bit more excited than usual at his excellent catch.
He plopped his dinner down and noticed its unusual markings. It looked scarred, but deliberately so. It was as if a message had been carved into the side of it.
“Hello,” the fish said, scaring the man but not quite surprising him. He knew something about the fish was off the moment he saw the scars.
“I don’t have much time,” it continued.
The man could tell it was already having trouble breathing. So he did not interrupt, many questions though he had.
“I was sent to ask you what you are doing.”
The man thought for only a moment. The fish was wriggling uncomfortably.
“Well I suppose you mean that in a grand sense. I doubt you came here just to ask me about my afternoon.”
As much as a fish can nod, this one did.
“I suppose I’m escaping from the mundane and unjust world of corporations to live simply in nature with my wife.”
“Correct, to an extent,” the fish wheezed. “And are you happy?”
“No, not really, and neither is my wife.”
“Ah, yes, well, the woman you married has given up everything to help you live your dream. Her own goal, as you know, was to be an architect. The day you quit your job was the day she was offered her dream job.”
“She got it?” he asked, astounded. “I had just assumed…”
“She wanted to support you, so she turned it down and followed you out of the city. She was glad that you cared enough about anything to make that kind of move.”
“But now she’s bitter,” the man said, wondering.
“Because neither of you are living your dream. You’re not meant for this.”
“How do you know all of this?”
“I am her spirit.” The fish struggled to get the words out.
“So what do I do now?”
“That neither she nor I could tell you. I searched for your spirit… everywhere… but I’m afraid it must have died…long ago.”
“So they say.” The fish spoke so quietly, the man feared for its life and threw it back in the lake.
After a moment it popped it’s head out and said, with more strength, “But it’s up to you to find it.”
It ducked under as though to leave but then resurfaced, pensive.
“Some stories must be read backwards to be truly understood.”